I wondered how Janice felt about moving to a much colder Europe?
“Well, I am excited by that prospect and I really want him to do his master’s degree but I also feel that it will be very challenging because I am still used to everything in Australia, so I’d say my first choice was still to do it in Australia: I know the lifestyle. Also, universities here have strong connections internationally, so I can always do an exchange for one semester or something like that.”
“I’m happy with my life here but I’m always planning at least five years ahead. At this stage, it’s uncertain which way I should go and I need a bit more time to figure it out! I am still holding a work visa, which limits opportunities (some companies don’t want to risk making the investment in someone who may not be around permanently, which I totally understand), and bigger cities like Sydney or Melbourne offer opportunities to go higher. Staff turnover is higher so new positions come up regularly which isn’t so true in Gold Coast, which is more compact and stable. Also, I have a lot of friends there and they love it so much, so although I like the outdoor living here and think of myself as not being a big city person, Melbourne has given me lots of good impressions. So maybe I need to figure out how I can apply for permanent residency or, if I want to study, to apply for a student visa. These are all things I need to figure out at this stage.”
It sounded to me like Janice is at a bit of a crossroads in her life with some big decisions coming up but she is open and enthusiastic, and excited by the various avenues available to her. She also has a bit of a mission that she wants to pursue, which is to bring a greater understanding in the west about China, its people and culture. This comes out with some passion when I ask her what advice she would give to a Chinese student thinking about embarking on the journey she has been on.
“Firstly, I would tell them not to be afraid, don’t be constrained by your own cultural norms but be open minded to embrace the culture shock, the cultural differences. It’s going to be very hard at the beginning. However, when you put yourself out there to fully understand their culture, Australia is a very friendly place to live. And I think that’s not just Australia. Being Chinese, I know how they will think: they may be afraid to put themselves out there, afraid of challenges but in Australia or any other country in the world, you have to be independent and that’s the big step for them. I cried many times the first year, but after a while, if you adjust, it can be an unforgettably positive experience. And now it’s common for people to say things to me based on unfair stereotypes of Chinese people: ‘wow, are you Chinese? I thought Chinese people can’t express their emotions like that!’ ”
“That has made me realise that there’s a big gap between China and the rest of the world. I think we have to fix it, those of us who have been overseas and can truly understand the problem, and the more I spend time overseas the more I love my own country. I really want to use my own skills in social media or whatever to show the rest of the world how beautiful China is and get away from some of the negative perceptions which are often caused by lack of understanding. There are always reasons, so by actually thinking about some of the reasons behind the problem you understand better: people are wrestling with negative thoughts about China because they don’t know the reason behind it. The one-child policy is a good example of this. And I think this needs people who see both sides to play an intermediate part, to connect China to the rest of the world. And that’s my dream – that’s what I want to do.”